Throwback Thursdays: Reggae Pon “Top of the Pops”

March 17, 2011

Words by Jesse Serwer


In light of this Cockney & Yardie trip we’ve been on recently (for better or worse), we thought we’d take a journey through the reggae/dancehall archives of the British hits showcase Top of the Pops, which aired on the BBC every Thursday night from 1964 until 1996 (and at various other, less-watched timeslots until 2006). Brits have better taste than us Yanks, or at least they did at that time, so while you’d be hard pressed to name any reggae acts who ever appeared on American Bandstand (or even Soul Train), TOTP‘s history is littered with memorable appearances, lip-synced or otherwise, from Jamaican and homegrown British reggae acts. Among those who gained some of their greatest exposure from the show are Dave and Ansel Collins (One of the first Jamaican acts to appear, in 1971), Althea and Donna (Their delightfully off-key rendition of “Uptown Top Ranking” might be the most thrilling of the bunch), and the late UK dancehall pioneer Smiley Culture (Doing”Police Officer,” a song that has just now taken on new meaning given the circumstances of his death on Tuesday). The series, which also hosted two of Bob Marley’s only network-TV appearances, fortunately lives on in Top of the Pops 2, which still airs classic, OGย TOTP footage on BBC Two to this date. Here are some gems that have made it to Youtube, in chronological order.

Dave and Ansel Collins, “Double Barrel,” April 29, 1971

Ken Boothe, “Everything I Own,” Dec. 25, 1974

Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Exodus,” June 9, 1977

Althea and Donna, “Uptown Top Ranking,” Jan. 1978

Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Satisfy My Soul,” June 22, 1978

Dennis Brown, “Money In My Pocket,” March 1979

Eddy Grant, “Living On The Front Line,” 1979

The Selecter, “Three Minute Hero,” 1979

Junior Murvin, “Police and Thieves,” May 1980

Grace Jones, “Private Life,” August 1980

Third World, “Dancing on the Floor,” Feb. 7, 1981

Sugar Minott, “Good Thing Going,” April 16, 1981

Smiley Culture, “Police Officer,” 1985

Rebel MC f. Barrington Levy, “Tribal Bass,” 1991